True Craft

30 August, 2017

And the partying doesn’t stop there. Marquis de Montesquiou, which has a distribution partnership with Pernod Ricard, has designed its bottles so they are easy to handle and appeal to bartenders on the nightclub scene.

One more trend is taking on the greatest-ever drink – the emergence of the armagnac and tonic. Denis Lesgourgues from Château de Laubade introduced DI to the A&T, and for all those G&T lovers, this could unlock a whole new realm of possibilities – especially given the fact that armagnac producers say it doesn’t give you a hangover.

Another buzzword common in younger vocabularies is ‘sustainability’, and expectations of this are certainly the case within the armagnac industry. Château de Laubade has been planting oak trees for 20 years as a way of replacing the wood used for fuelling the stills. This circle of life is evident at other châteaux too. Château de Pellehaut has 70 cows on site and the farmers use the manure as fertiliser for the vines.

Olivier Bonnafont is the cellarmaster at Castarède Armagnac, which is based at a 16th-century castle. He is pioneering the organic side of armagnac production and argues that some vintages from before the introduction of pesticides and industrial farming are very good, so therefore the same must be possible today without the use of modern techniques.

Bonnafont says: “We don’t have any organic armagnac in production yet but we’re working towards it. It isn’t just about trying to exploit a new part of the market – our lifestyle is organic. I want to create a positive working vineyard for my boys to take over.”

FRENCH BLING?

It’s fair to say that when armagnac is mentioned in conversation the participants instinctively think of high prices. But this is not the case. A 70cl bottle of Tariquet XO from UK supermarket chain Waitrose costs £27, which is less than the Rémy Martin cognac range –and that’s after sale reductions.

Lots of producers in Gascony have also seen a resurgence in the Russian market following its political and financial difficulties over the past decade, while Castledine at Châteaux Bordeneuve expects the Italian market to grow three-fold over the next three years.

Although armagnac remains behind the pace in terms of sales and distribution, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A common theme in any industry is that, with expansion comes a loss of quality, and if there’s one thing that armagnac producers don’t want to do, it’s lose quality.

There are some producers who use profits from winemaking to drive armagnac volumes forward, but due to an even distribution of land within Gascony, it’s highly unlikely that armagnac will end up in the same situation as cognac, with one brand dominating.

Although ‘craft’ will no doubt continue to litter bottles of spirits for years to come, armagnac remains true to the essence of the word and will likely continue to expand at its own pace with modesty and grace. Unlike the daring missions of the Musketeers.





Comment

Joe Bates

Turning travellers into shoppers

In Cannes last month as I dashed around from stand to stand and from interview to interview amid a whirl of product launches and cocktail parties, I heard one question asked over and over again.

Click for more »

Events

Facebook

Twitter